You couldn’t leave León without seeing the Casa Botines. A work of the great Antonio Gaudí, a master described as crazy by some and a genius by others. Sometimes, both at the same time. Other Art specialists, like the Catalonian Josep Pijoan, would describe him in a softer way, saying that the master had suffered a long religious crisis throughout his life…
In any case, that’s the way Gaudí was, and that’s the way we must take him to understand buildings like this one. An original building that looks like a palace taken from a novel inspired by Tolkien and at the same time like a normal apartment building.
A curious detail is that according to the guide written by Tate Cabré, this House of the Botines or Botines House, in reality should be called Casa Fernández Andrés, since those were the surnames of whom, taking advantage that Gaudí was in León’s area building the Bishop’s Palace in Astorga, asked him (around the year 1891), to build this small and extraordinary house right in the middle of León’s city centre.
The reason why it is called Botines House, it’s because Simón Fernández and Mariano Andrés were the partners of a Catalonian merchant, Joan Homs i Botinàs, who at the same time was a client-of-a-client of Gaudí, his name probably sounds familiar: Eusebi Güell. Yes, the same one from the famous Güell park in Barcelona.
And this is why in the iron ornaments at the main entrance, you can see the initials of Homs i Botinàs and also of Mariano Andrés. But as you can see… the popular voice has chosen to call this building with just the name of Botines.
In any case, Gaudí did what he best knew: he raised an overwhelming piece of work trying not to clash with the other buildings in the surroundings, like the Guzmanes Palace, so it would blend with the history of the city…and also that it would get through the weather that it was going to have to endure. In the case of León, very cold, rain and snow. That’s why the solid stone walls are crowned by gothic and pointed slate roofs to avoid the accumulation of snow on them and therefore, the risk of collapse… Snow is heavy. Very heavy!
And this is how Gaudí gave birth to another piece of work that would leave you astonished for a good while, thanks to details like the one of Saint George killing a dragon, a mix of caiman and lizard, which you can see above the main door of this Casa Botines.
There is plenty of neo-gothic buildings, but nothing like the ones Gaudí built around that time, before he discovered Modernism in all of its splendour. So take advantage and have a good look around, because you are facing one of the less known works of Gaudí, but no less great.